Joni Sternbach | Her Wave
Von Lintel Gallery
By Annie Seaton
Through October 29th
Contemporary fine art photography today can mean anything from colossal digital prints, analog silver prints created in a darkroom, to large-scale iPhone photos appropriated from Instagram a la Richard Prince. But Joni Sternbach’s current exhibition of tintype portraits titled Her Wave at Von Lintel Gallery on view until October 29 defies categorization.
Harkening back to the late 19th century, Sternbach’s process eschews digital technology for the slower process of a bulky large format camera, tripod, film plates and chemical trays. She employs the wet plate tintype method of photography for her portraits using a large format camera and developing her photographic prints in a portable on-site darkroom.
Sternbach’s exhibition Her Wave celebrates woman as subject. Strong defiant women look into her camera like contemporary Olympia’s. Women are celebrated in all forms and at all ages, from an intimate portrait of mother and child showering at the beach in Theodore and Katherine, to Mila, a young girl photographed with her short board that reads Girl Power. Shot on beaches from both the East and West Coasts and Europe there are no tell-tale identifiers of where these surfers reside and that lends an element of mystery and timelessness to her portraits.
Sternbach shares that close intimacy and captures strong females similar to Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother. Sternbach’s subjects evoke softness, but with a focus on strong physicality as well as emotions. Her Wave is a very intimate exhibition consisting of 13 tintypes and one ambitious triptych Santa Barbara and the Waves, featuring 7 Santa Barbara locals in panorama.
Photography enthusiasts will fall in love with Sternbach’s meticulous tintypes as will anyone who appreciates surfing and the gorgeous beach seascapes. Her Wave is about photographic practice as well as surf culture. It is also about the radiance of women — a feminist study of a private realm inhabited by women of great physical strength and of a photographer who has an incredible command of her craft and artistry.